DIGBOI, Jan 18 - A partially-domesticated female hoolock gibbon was killed on January 14 afternoon in Ningthong village falling mid-way between Dibong and Ketetong under Margherita East Forest range. The primate used to take shelter in the surroundings of the homestead of Bhupeswar Ningda of Ningthong, a noted social elder of Margherita area and was fondly called �Kaalia�. Among the wildlife enthusiasts of Tinsukia district and the adjoining areas, �Kaalia� was next to their own hearts. Upon receipt of information of the death of the primate, the Margherita East Forest Range Officer (i/c), Padum Borpatra Gohain and his team seized the carcass of the slain animal for post mortem and lodged a case with the Margherita Police Station.
�Kaalia� was around 38 years of age and it became attached to the family of the said Bhupeswar Ningda from 1981 after it was rescued by him from a violent chase by a dog near about his own yard when it was very young. The wildlife enthusiasts of the entire Margherita subdivision along with the public are feeling anguished at the incident. When alive, �Kaalia� drew visitors from different parts of the State and also from abroad. When contacted, Bhupeswar Ningda reported that the family would be observing the shraddha ceremony of �Kaalia� on January 20 morning.
A public awareness meeting was held on January 17 on the premises of Ketetong ME School regarding the incident. The meeting was organized by the Digboi Forest Division and was attended by the DFO, Ranjan Kumar Das, the Forest Range Officers of the division, the wildlife activists and conservationists and a sizeable section of the local public.
HN Sarma, retired principal of Margherita College and Honorary Wildlife Warden of Tinsukia district presided over the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was elaborated by Padum Borpatra Gohain. DFO Das highlighted in his power-point presentation some memorable moments with �Kaalia� as also the age-old heritage of the primates together with the other species of wildlife of the entire Dehing-Patkai Sanctuary and the adjoining forests. Rajib Rudra Tariang, wildlife biologist also made a power-point presentation on the theme of the interlinking of conservation and the future of the homo sapiens. From among the public, Sarat Hazarika, retired headmaster of Ketetong Janajati High School and Bidya Kachari, a local teacher, while grieving at the loss of the life of the primate, narrated how the primate had attacked a boy aged around 13 years of the same village seriously, as a sequel to which a number of people rushed to the boy�s rescue. �Kaalia� received serious injuries in the incident and died.
In the meeting, some 10 to 12 boys were produced by their parents to establish that in the recent years �Kaalia� had become aggressive, particularly with the younger boys of the locality and in the past even the Forest Department was informed of such incidents. Both the speakers proposed that the police case be withdrawn and an appeal was made to the public to protect and conserve the wildlife species and their habitats in a dedicated manner. The public responded to them positively.
DFO Das proposed that the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia be requested to institute a magisterial enquiry into the matter and the necessary course of action be taken thereupon. The meeting also unanimously decided to observe January 14 every year as the Hoolock Gibbon Day.